Ever since the dawn of man kind it was common knowledge that only people traversing vast desert areas, are those who absolutely have to. Humans were simply not built to survive in such adverse conditions. Only the Tuaregs, Bedouins, and few other groups are known for traveling the vast deserts, but they’ve developed a completely different, nomadic way of life. In this day and age, there are not many reasons for someone to travel across the desert, however if you had to, what vehicle would get you across? Not many vehicles are capable of performing this daunting task, but there are some that have what it takes. Check out these 30 vehicles that will survive a trip across the desert.
Toyota Land Cruiser
If you’ve watched the news in the past 10 or more years, you’ve probably seen countless Toyota pickup trucks in hands of various warlords and terrorist organizations. Most of those are Land Cruisers. With incredible engines, trusty AWD, and just rugged design, Land Cruisers are near indestructible. Even the years of wartime use with little to no maintenance is not enough to bring these beasts to a halt. Needless to say, it’s a perfect choice for driving across the desert.
Much like the Land Cruiser we’ve just described, Nissan Patrol is an SUV whose capabilities are known all across the world. While they are not often seen in the hands of ragtag militias of the Middle East, they are being used by numerous militaries and UN missions around the world. They feature reliable engines that can work in very adverse conditions, and more than solid AWD systems.
Although it is mostly driven by soccer moms today, Mercedes-Benz G-Class has always been about functionality. Low center of mass and quite incredible 4×4 system make it one of the best vehicles to use off road, while the engines offer that legendary German precision and reliability. It is used by numerous armed forces around the world, where it is also known as Steyr-Puch, or just Puch for short.
Hummer H1, and its military counterpart, the HMMWV, are very special beasts when it comes to their construction, as well as their needs. No matter which one you choose, you will get a low center of mass, wide body, and enough clearance to traverse just about any kind of terrain. These vehicles feature pretty powerful engines, and in case of the HMMWV, you can use numerous things as fuel. Speaking of which, this thing is as thirsty as they come, but it’s one of the best vehicles for our given task.
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited
While Wranglers are mostly used for rock crawling these days, they are among the most adequate vehicles for any kind of expedition into the wild. The Rubicon Unlimited version comes packed with enhanced components such as more rigid locking diffs, larger axles and similar. Basically everything you would want on your dessert cruising ride.
Land Rover Defender
Defender is the kind of a vehicle that brings that spartan experience to its drivers. It’s a bare-bones truck that is known for its simplicity and incredible performance. The engines are great, along with transmission and the 4×4 system. Defenders are very familiar with deserts, after all they were one of the most driven vehicles in Africa at one point.
Early models of Hilux were by far one of the most resilient and simply immortal vehicles you could find. This holds true to this day. They were mechanically simple and rugged, while reaching 100,000 miles on their 20R engines was considered as a break-in period. They are reliable, fuel efficient, and affordable. Definitely a great choice for a desert vehicle.
To an uninformed observer this Volvo may seem like anything but a car to take on a trip across the desert. However, the XC70 model is one of those very odd cars that were unappreciated. First and foremost, they are reliable thanks to Volvo not giving up on their practices of fine engineering they are known for. Secondly, these came with a pretty sweet AWD that could take some serious abuse. While it may lack ground clearance, it is definitely a car to consider.
VW Beetle (Buggy)
If there’s one vehicle for navigating sand dunes that has become almost iconic in this aspect, it’s the VW Beetle buggy. There are basically no rules when it comes to creating one of these, as you will probably have to make your own, but the results are almost always great. The best thing is, you can go as crazy as you want when making a buggy since it’s a really flexible platform.
Subaru Foresters are definitely not getting the credit they deserve. Imprezas are nice, but it’s the Forester that truly takes advantage of Subaru’s symmetrical 4×4 drive they are known for all over the world. These SUVs are both reliable and capable, making them a fine choice for navigating across an open desert. New or old, it doesn’t matter that much because Subaru kept their core values in check when it comes to which aspect of their vehicles take priority.
This small Suzuki 4×4 is a very interesting vehicle. Disregarding its size, it features all the right things you want to see in a good 4×4. You got your solid axles, leaf springs all around, and most importantly for our scenario – super light weight. If you take this thing out to the desert, you will basically glide over that sand. It may not be the best choice if you plan on taking more than one or two friends with you, but otherwise it’s an inexpensive and easy to maintain vehicle for our intended use.
This wundertruck from Ford is not something you’d choose for a desert trip if you want reliable mode of transportation. It’s what you take to the desert if you want to cross it reliably, but in style. Thanks to it’s upgraded suspension and beastly engine, you can push the pedal to the metal and floor this thing over sand dunes without hesitation. This F-150 on steroids was made for that kind of stuff.
Chances are you’ve probably never heard of this SUV before, but it was one of the more capable vehicles you could get back in the 80s and 90s. It came with good engines that would deliver enough torque to pull you out of bad situations, and suspension that was nothing flashy, but very functional. If you’re searching for an inexpensive way to take on this journey, a Trooper may be just what you’re looking for.
Dodge Power Wagon
There is just something about jacket up trucks with beastly engines that makes them so attractive. Glorious appearance of this Dodge aside, underneath all that flashy exterior is a very decent machine that can take a beating like the one you could encounter in the desert. It comes with a variety of V8 engines which deliver loads of torque and horsepower, definitely enough for any kind of automotive gymnastics in the desert, and the locking diffs coupled with a great suspension definitely add to that.
While it was not as prolific as its counterparts, Toyota Land Cruiser and Nissan Patrol, Mitsubishi Pajero could carry its weight against them. Instead of trying to create something revolutionary, Mitsubishi decided to go for reliability and ruggedness. You will find Pajeros in different parts of the world under different names, and most of those owners will tell you that these vehicles know no limits.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4WD
Mercedes-Benz has a long history of producing vans and utility vehicles with outstanding 4WD capabilities. Their Sprinter 4WD is no different. If you think about it, it’s the perfect vehicle for our little scenario. It offers an abundance of room and storage space, it comes with turbo-diesel V6 engines, and it has a solid 4WD system coupled with a low-range gearbox.
Unimogs have always been a very special kind of vehicles. What started off as an army truck, soon grew to become one of the most legendary utility vehicles on earth. You will find these anywhere from army barracks to construction zones. They are incredibly rugged, come with 4×4 systems out of this world, and have portal axle design combined with torque tubes. Aside from these goodies, you also get low-range gearing, locking diffs all around, and incredible approach and departure angles. It’s no wonder many expeditions that cover thousands of miles choose these trucks for their journeys.
Made in the 1970s, Pinzgauers are just odd and surprisingly agile vehicles designed for military use. They are the size of your average van, maybe even smaller, but they are automotive mountain goats. Pinzgauers come in either 4×4 or 6×6 configurations, with either petrol or diesel engines. As soon as they were launched, they were a complete success and armies around the world lined up to place their orders. We can say with certainty that Pinzgauers already went across some deserts, so you shouldn’t worry too much about their capabilities.
While new Range Rovers are full of gadgets and systems to keep you safe and help you navigate whatever terrain you are on, it’s the older generations of Range Rover that we chose to pick for this exercise. Long before they became glorified mini-vans, Ranger Rovers were actually one of the best off-road vehicles you could find. We’re talking 1970s model, which had full-time 4×4 and engines that were made before British automotive industry became pacified.
Introduced as a replacement for Soviet era UAZs, GAZ Tigr was designed to be the main light vehicle of the Russian military. From its appearance, it’s not hard to figure out it’s a Hummer inspired design. So far it has shown to be a worthy vehicle off-road, and has served for several years with armed forces of the Russian Federation. Since it has no issues with tackling unforgiving Russian terrain in the east, you can bet it can take on a piece of dry desert.
Toyota 4Runners have always been the backbone of amateur off-road community ever since Jeeps became somewhat expensive. The 4Runner features almost everything you could find in a Land Cruiser, only scaled down to a certain extent. Like the Land Cruiser, it is one of the favorite vehicles for a number of warring factions all over the Middle East and Africa.
If you want old school, Ford Bronco is what you’re looking for. It’s simple, rugged, and comes with an engine that is as powerful as it is loud. Huge tires and plenty of ground clearance means that you will be bouncing over sand dunes like it’s no big deal. It’s one of the more obvious choices, especially if you decide to invest some money in some aftermarket kits to enhance your Bronco’s off-road capabilities.
Chevrolet K5 Blazer
Similar to Ford Bronco we just described, the old Chevy K5 Blazer is one fun beast to drive, especially across a bunch of sand. It shares most of the design features we like in the Bronco, and is easily kept in working condition with a couple of wrenches and some know-how. There is nothing delicate nor sophisticated about the K5 Blazer, but it’ll get you where you need to go.
International MaxxPro Dash
If you want something pushed to the limits, just give it to the military. They will beat it and mistreat, especially during an active war. MaxxPro Dash from International was designed out of necessity, as it offered much higher levels of protection than what the troops had available until that point. It’s a beastly 4×4 truck with an equally beastly 9.5 liter engine. It just so happens that its heavily armored as well, so if you encounter anything or anyone you don’t like during your trip, you can safely sit in your air-conditioned MRAP and wait for it to blow over.
International Harvester Scout 80
This obscure SUV was designed and built during a period when there was no real demand for off-road vehicles. It came with a hefty V8, and pretty rustic 4×4 system. Scout 80 on its own would serve as a great vehicle for crossing a desert, but the logistics required for such a trip would probably prove to be problematic. There aren’t many of these around today, and finding spare parts would be fairly difficult. Either way it’s a fine 4×4.
Since North America got robbed of the mighty Patrol, the consolation prize eventually came in form of a Nissan Frontier. While it’s not as legendary as its famous cousin, Frontier is still a formidable off-roader. It’s built with the same attention to detail and overall functionality as the Patrol, just in a different package. You wouldn’t have a hard time taking one of these on a journey, even across the desert.
Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
Once Ford gambled and won with the Raptor, Toyota’s racing division took matters into their own hands and began work on developing a beefed up truck of their own. Toyota Tundra TRD Pro is the result of that effort. It’s one mean machine with a 5.7 liter V8, and suspension designed by someone who knows what is necessary. You can take this Tundra and tear up the dirt all day long.
Chevrolet Silverado Hennessey
There’s nothing better than to take an already pretty capable truck, and put the biggest and meanest engine you can find in it. That is more or less what Silverado Hennessey is.While its suspension and the rest of the works isn’t really geared toward hard core off-road use, you can definitely take this truck out across Mojave any day of the week.
Iveco was always known for their utility and commercial vehicles. Chances are you’re hearing about this company for the first time right now, unless you’re from Europe. The Iveco LMV is a part of their military line of light vehicles with 4×4 capability. Iveco has had some pretty great 4×4 systems in the past, and the LMV is proving to be pretty agile out in the field.
Volkswagen Touareg 3
If nothing on this list inspires confidence in you, there is always the VW Touareg 3. Obtaining one is probably going to be extremely difficult, but this beast of an SUV is the car that won Paris-Dakar in 2011. It’s 2.5 liter, twin turbocharged engine is not the largest nor the most powerful on our list, but combined with light chassis and body of this car, it’s more than enough. The choice is yours.